Sunday, February 27, 2005

First Things, First!

Shmiel Ramras writes in response to a reader's question
first advice: Shine your shoes...
Wise guy!

2:40 Link Dump

The Town Crier links to a blogger who's "caught" Dedi.

mentalblog has some audio of Matisyahu and Pey Dalid from 2002.

MIDI hamsters.

We're jealous.

Not Lipa, Baderech!

Renegade Rebbetzin likes MC Hammer for laundry sorting.

Here's a lovely Steve Martin essay:

We're rappers!

Here's Allison Kaplan Sommer on a dilemma faced by some Israeli pop musicians.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Question on Contemporary Jewish Music Issues

A reader who has unpublished compositions and is in the process of recording them emails:
I know nothing about today's Jewish ("Chassidic") commercial music world in either the US or Israel and would appreciate information and guidance on how to break in with a single at first and eventually the CD--via radio programs, distributors and whatever. I do not perform in public.
Advice, anyone?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Kesef Minalan

Psachya Septimus writes:
Re "I don't like Yidden & don't want Moshiach:" A little while ago, I played a wedding where the featured singer was Lipa Schmeltzer. Apparently, the customers liked all of Lipa's songs but one - at the bottom of the prep sheet was written, in large print, "NO GELT!!!" I leave the punch line to you.

Fiddling While Chametz Burns (OK, so it's a stretch)

Biur Chametz comments on on our recent post. Here's a taste:
When my almost-wife and I met with the bandleader before our wedding back in '94, we had firm ideas about what kind of music we wanted. (Actually, we had first looked for a klezmer band, but that didn't pan out.) Our "banned" list for the band specified Yidden, Moshiach, and Samchem. A bit unusual, but not hard to accommodate.

Actually, we said, we don't like anything by Avraham Fried or Mordechai Ben-David.

The bandleader, as the British say, was gobsmacked. "Then what will we play?" he asked, dumbfounded.

"Well, what did you play before ten years ago?" He was certainly old enough to remember.

We went over his playlist together and found no shortage of classic simcha tunes, heavy on the Carlebach and Hassidic Song Festivals, along with plenty of appropriate shirei moledet (Israeli folk songs).

What did we have against those songs? Aside from a general musical aversion to shiny shoe music, those three songs were individually offensive. Yidden is written to the tune of a German entry to the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest about Genghis Khan. Moshiach takes a sincere declaration of faith ("Ani Maamin...") and turns it into a superficial glitzy dance number. And Samchem... well, I just find it unbearably tuneless. It feels like a football chant. What more can I say?

Not Mottel, But Taylor (continuing the theme)

Here's The Jewish Week on Margot Leverett's "Klezmerbluegrass" collaboration with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

If I Were A Reichman!

Here's Rabbi Hershel Reichman's Purim Katan shiur... er kumsitz! We never had shiur like that.

Via The Town Crier

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dylan Says "Study Klezmer." (OK, so not really.)

Here's Bob Dylan
'I know there are groups at the top of the charts that are hailed as the saviours of rock'n'roll and all that, but they are amateurs. They don't know where the music comes from,' he wrote, adding, “I wouldn't even think about playing music if I was born in these times... I'd probably turn to something like mathematics. That would interest me. Architecture would interest me. Something like that.'
There are those who make the same point about some of today's JM performers.

He's Going To Israel!

Here's an interesting article on Korn guitarist Brian 'Head' Welch's decision to leave the band for moral reasons.

Via Michelle Malkin

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

It's Purim Katan!

Here's some Purim music. Check out Layehudim and Mishenichnas,now that's what I call kickin' out da jams Jerusalem style, with only drums and vocals.

Reader email

"Jothar" writes:
It probably happened to every bandleader, but I confirmed this one with this musician's son. The father of the chosson goes over to the bandleader and says "Remember- I don't like Yidden, and I don't want Moshiach."
Reminds me of a guy I knew in yeshiva. He'd hired a chassidishe band for his wedding because he wanted chassidic nigunim and no rock at his wedding and thought they were the most suited to his taste. At the affair, they started to play Yidden, and the chosson ran over to stop them. Later that week, at Sheva Brachos, his brother stood up and prefaced his speech by saying you're supposed to say nice things about the chosson, "what can one say about a guy who killed Yidden?"

Hillel Rocks On

Hillel Rocks On!
Jewish rock 'n roll groups Reva L'sheva and Rakan performed in front of 30 people on Wednesday, Feb. 9 in the Hillel, Student Union room 206.
Thirty people???

Friday, February 18, 2005

What if?

Here's a great Lily Tomlin quote:"I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else."

Moses to Pharoah Sanders -- Let My People Go!

Judith at Kesher Talk is recommending a CD purchase.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Any Sibelius users out there?

I've been using Finale music notation software for years, but I'm thinking of switching over to a competing program, Sibelius. Making the switch, at least on a trial basis, seems like a no-brainer at this point. Given the high-price of Finale's annual (and mostly useless) upgrades, and Sibelius' crossgrade offer, if I don't do the Finale annual upgrade this year or next, I'd break even.

Over the years, I've had a number of issues with Finale. Here are a few of the big ones:

-- Their GUI is terrible; it's not intuitive, and certain functions are either hidden, or are much more complicated to use than they ought to be.

-- Many of their features simply don't work as advertised. One example, a number of years back, I upgraded to their new version which promised the ability to scan directly into Finale. The function simply didn't work even on simple lead sheets that had originally been notated in Finale. I met the developer of that software --it was licensed from Smartscore -- and he told me flat out that it didn't work well.

-- Their MIDI functionality is often sketchy and frequently doesn't work.

-- Hyperscribe often doesn't accurately play back edits made to existing notation.

-- New versions of Finale are not backwards compatible by design. This means that if I'm working on a project with someone else where we are sharing files, and one of us upgrades, the other has to upgrade as well in order to open files created on the newer version.

The final straw, though, is this. Last year, I upgraded to Finale 2004. They delivered it months behind schedule, and several of the promised features weren't included. Finale eventually made them available via download a few months later.

A few months back, I noticed that some of my files weren't printing out properly in Finale 2004c. In particular, underlined text was printing out with the underline running diagonally down at an approximately forty-degree angle beginning somewhere under the first letter. It looked like a printer's glitch, but it was happening consistently. So, I emailed MakeMusic! to see if they could resolve this issue. Here's how they responded:
This is a known issue in Finale 2004c. This is the main reason that will still post the 2004b version on our website. Printing underline text from 2004b is fine. You can keep both versions running on your machine. This problem has been fixed in 2005.
I replied:
I'm a bit troubled by your response that "this is a known issue in Finale 2004c" since it appears from your statement that Makemusic! has no intention of fixing the problem. (Incidentally, there was no mention of this "known issue" on Finale's website. Ed.)

My expectation that underlined text will print properly is not exactly an obscure one and its not an unreasonable requirement. I shouldn't have to choose between EPS export (available only in 2004c) and having underlined text print properly; especially when EPS export was promised for 2004.

The fact that the problem is fixed in 2005 is irrelevant to me because I don't intend to upgrade to 2005.

You've acknowledged that the problem is in fact Finale's. How does Makemusic intend to fix it for me?
They replied:
Any time that an installer is cracked open and code is changed to add new features or fix current ones, there is the risk that another part of the program will be negatively affected. This is true with all programming and is nothing unique to Finale. Therefore, this usually only happens if there is something critical that needs to be fixed. It is very possible that fixing this particular problem in 2004 would break something else.

It is important that we track down any of these problems and make sure that they get addressed in the future, but they are not always addressed with a free maintenance release. Many problems are fixed in the regular upgrades. This was the case with this particular underline problem, since it was fixed in 2005.

If there was absolutely no work-around to the problem or if we were getting flooded with complaints from other users about this problem, then this would be a completely different story. The fact is that there is a work-around present in 2004 to get the result that you want and we are not hearing from 2004 users that this is a high priority. So it is very unlikely that you will see another maintenance update for 2004.

The work-around is to keep the 2004b and 2004c applications on your computer. Open files in 2004b when you need to print files with underlined text and open files in 2004c when you need to create EPS files. Files where neither of these apply can be opened in either version.
I don't think that this is an appropriate (or truthful) response. Besides, I shouldn't have to keep track of which version I'm running, especially when there is nothing visually wrong with the underlines on screen in 2004c.

So, I'm looking into Sibelius. I've been hearing good things about it for a while, and they make it quite easy to try.

If Finale wants to keep me, it'll take a lot more than repeated spamming with this "Special Offer."

Anyone else have a similar experience?

No More Faith In Those Chili Peppers

Ben Jacobson is referencing John Frusciante and Mr. Bungle in JM reviews.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Where Do I Begin?

Had an interesting conversation tonight with a Graham dancer. We were talking about how performers need to be aware of the audience. We'd both been taught that the beginnings and endings of pieces are especially crucial because people are more likely to notice if something isn't smooth.

This reminded me of an unrelated story about people noticing endings from a gig I played years ago at a wedding in Brooklyn. The trumpet player decided to play the "Theme from Love Story" while the guests were eating dinner that night; an odd choice given the makeup of the crowd. To really up the showmanship, he stepped out onto the empty dance floor, climbed the photographer's ladder, and proceeded to play the song from atop the ladder. It wasn't even a particularly good rendition of the tune, but what makes this moment particularly memorable is how -- with all eyes on him -- he ended the tune and proceeded to empty his spit-valve from the top of the ladder directly onto the dance floor. The look on the guest's (and band's) faces was priceless.

I Saw The Sign

Rehearsed in a preschool classroom this evening. A sign hanging in the front of the room caught my eye. It read:
- No pushing
- Walking feet
- Use our inside voices
- You need to listen to the teachers
- Use nice words
- Help our friends feel better
- No guns

I kid you not.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Who says that bloggers can't be choosers?

Rachel Factor's one-woman show,JAP,is written up in the NY Times theater section.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Walking On Mayim Chayim

The Town Crier and Soundscape notice that violinist Miri Ben-Ari has won a Grammy for best rap song.

2/13/05 Link Dump

Jewschool reports that NYC venue Tonic is in danger of shutting down. I knew they shouldn't have shut down the Klezmer brunch series.

Seriously, I've heard many great performances there over the years including bands like Khevrisa, Naftule's Dream, David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness,and Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys. Although they are no longer featuring Klezmer and avant-Jewish music as often as they had been, they still are one of the few places in the city where one can hear edgy Jewish music. It'd be a shame if they went under.

Eph sends in an old link of alternate text-based lyrics to Jewish songs.

YUTOPIA's Jewish Guitar Chord OLGA is online.

Any chance we'll see some of these music band fonts on some new JM albums?

Here's a Krakauer profile titled "The mad scientist of klezmer music!"

Here's Jewsweek on Agent Emes.

Finally, Matisyahu's old bandmates want props.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I Don't Blame Him.

Here's Baraita:
"Yes, 'Al Kol Eleh' is often performed to extremely cheesy accompaniment and has questionable subtext on several levels, but it still makes me sniffle. Even in bad English translation. D., on the other hand, has trouble restraining the urge to sing 'Ukelele.' Heathen."
I don't blame him. There are certain things that just stick. If I had a dollar for every kid who sang "pork chops" instead of "purkan" in "Al Hanisim"...

I Need More...

You dream about tone. You practice relentlessly. You dedicate yourself to mastering your Electric Cowbell.

Hat tip, Soundscape.

And the answer is...

Psachya Septimus emails:
Responding to your post: "Shifty whoo", a.k.a. "Achas Shoalti", originally appeared on the Toronto Boys Choir album "V'Omar Bayom Hahu", which was released in the mid-'70's. Best bet to find it would probably be at Mostly Music in Borough Park (I believe they have a website as well).
Bravo on your "Purim peeve" piece - I, too, receive calls every year for "March 24" (this year's example) without being told that it's Purim. Simple solution - at the beginning of every year, mark in your date book (or Palm Pilot, or whatever) the date for Purim, as well as Lag Ba-Omer, Pesach, Succos, Shabbos Nachamu, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. It will save you a lot of grief, as well as informing the offices that you're on to them.

Honorary mention to Jordan and Mindy who thought it was Toronto Pichei, but who couldn't ID the album.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Help Wanted

Steve writes:
I saw a note in your blog from 8/2003 regarding the song "shifty whoo." we used to sing it in hebrew school, but i don't know the real name. my brother and i are dying to find a copy.
Anyone remember the album it originally appeared on?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

2/7/05 Link Dump

Here's an interesting way to add percussion tracks to your recording.

Now the music industry is suing dead 83 year olds.

Here are MoC and Ted Stratton on Matisyahu.

Guitarist Yossi Piamenta has posted a track from his unreleased project with Stan Getz on his website.

Michael Drapkin posts Rav Shmuel's invocation at his chamber music group's concert.

Update 2/8/05:

MoCmakes amends.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Purim Peeve

Here's something that happens virtually every year and irks me. This past week, I received a call from a big band in town for March 24th. I happen to know that it is Megilah night, and I find it disingenuous that they are calling musicians and try to get them to commit to a Purim gig without mentioning that salient fact. I've heard from other musicians who have accepted such gigs in the past without checking their Hebrew calendars and then have felt stuck because they don't want to -- or couldn't afford to -- cancel on a big office, even though they would never have accepted the gig had they realized what it was.

There are many reasons why musicians may not want to accept a sideman gig that night.

Here are a few:

1) If the musician is a bandleader or is capable of performing solo, (i.e. guitarist, keyboardist, or vocalist who performs with backing tracks) they may prefer to book their own gig.
2) If the musicians leads their own band, or regularly plays for another band, they may prefer to hold the night for that group.
3) If the musician is Jewish, there may be logistical issues with hearing Megilah and being on time for the gig.
4) Some musicians don't want to work on Purim because they view it as family time.
5) Some musicians don't want to play certain venues like many yeshivos because the gigs are unpleasant and there is a risk of injury/equipment damage when playing in a roomful of out-of-control drunks. (Some musicians love these gigs.)

I think that if a band disingenuously tricks a musician into accepting a Purim gig, the musician is within their rights to cancel them when they discover the deception.